Sterling Financial Corporation is the holding company for Sterling Bank (formerly Sterling Savings Bank), one of the largest regional community banks in the Pacific Northwest. The bank operates about 190 branch locations in northern California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and lends throughout the West from more than 30 loan origination offices. In California it does business under the name Sonoma Bank. Real estate and construction loans account for the majority of the bank's portfolio. Its wealth management division markets stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and other investments to bank customers. Sterling Financial is regaining its luster after being hard hit by the downturn in the housing market.
Sterling Financial Corp's. principal operating subsidiary is Sterling Bank. The bank operates three business segments: Commercial Real Estate; Community Banking; and a Home Loan division.
SFC's 2011 revenue declined 9% vs. 2010, while net income jumped 117% over the same period. 2011 marked the fourth consecutive year of falling revenue for the bank, which is down about 38% vs. 2007, as the housing crisis pummeled California and SFC's other markets. On the plus side, SFC returned to profitability in 2011, the first year since 2007. Indeed, SFC's losses totaled nearly $1.4 billion between 2008 and 2010, largely as a result of a declining real estate asset portfolio.
A new management team is seeking to return the bank to stable footing. Greg Seibly has replaced Harold Gilkey as Sterling's CEO; with more than 20 years in the financial industry, Seibly previously served on the executive teams of such banks as U.S. Bancorp, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. The company also named a new chairman, COO, and several new directors. Under Seibly, the bank completed a $730 million recapitalization in 2010.
To further bolster its capital position, SAFC is emphasizing sales and business development, working on growing its fee income, and streamlining operations. It sold bad loans and merged residential mortgage lender Golf Savings Bank into Sterling Savings. The bank has cut back on riskier construction and real estate lending to focus on writing loans for consumers, small to midsized businesses, and multifamily residences.
The adaptations seem to have helped Sterling, as further growth is underway. The company expanded in 2012 through the acquisition of assets, deposits, and banking operations of in the Pacific Northwest.
Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestments
Adding to its holdings, the company in late 2012 agreed to buy California-based American Heritage Holdings, the parent of Borrego Springs Bank, for about $6.5 million. Borrego Springs Bank is a nationally chartered and federally insured commercial bank specializing in SBA and other government guaranteed lending through three branches and seven loan offices. The purchase will boost Sterling's government guaranteed lending and serving capabilities. Earlier in the year Sterling bought First Independent Bank from owner First Independent Investment Group, thereby moving into the Portland/Vancouver market with 27 full-service branches. The deal included First Independent's wealth and asset management operations, which allows Sterling to add trust services to its offerings.
In 2012 Sterling exited Montana with the sale of its operations there to Eagle Bancorp Montana. The $7.3 million deal included the divesture of seven retail branches and their non-depository investment services businesses.
Thomas H. Lee Advisors and the private equity arm of Warburg Pincus each own nearly 23% of Sterling Financial's shares as a result of their $170 million capital infusions made in 2010 to avoid seizure of the company. – less